One of the best known maritime mysteries became a local landmark when pieces of it came ashore and set the ambiance for the legendary The Barefoot Mailman restaurant. The story comes with still unsolved mysteries.
The Sea was calm. The weather was fine. The sails of the 103-foot brigantine were set as she sailed with the wind. But the ship circled helplessly. So erratic was her course in the waters of the mid-western Atlantic on the afternoon of Dec. 4, 1892, that a party from another brigantine decided to board her. Both ships had taken on cargo a month earlier in New York.
They found the table set and a hearty meal for the captain, his wife and daughter and their eight member crew simmering in the galley. Toys were scattered on the captain’s bed where a child had been playing. The cargo, 1,700 barrels of alcohol valued at $42,000, was secure in the ship’s hold. But the brigantine Mary Celeste was empty – even the cat was gone.” The brigantine class was created before 1775 in Nova Scotia’s British colonies. Swifter than the schooner, it was popular for piracy and reconnoitering. Built as a two masted sailing ship, it also had a square rigged foremost mast and a fore and aft rigged mainmast.
Over 100 years later, her hull dominated the dining room of the Barefoot Mailman Hotel in Hillsboro Beach. How did the hull find its way to a hotel on AIA from the western Atlantic where countless ships and aircraft and their crews have disappeared? The mystery gets compounded. The new owners of the Mailman, John and Gloria Martin, who purchased the hotel from the Palm-Aire Corporation in 1974, reported, “We just don’t know.”
Told And Retold
The story has been told and retold in novels, plays and films. On Spencer’s Island, Nova Scotia, Mary Celeste and the lost crew are remembered by a monument and a memorial outdoor cinema in the shape of the vessel’s hull as well as postage stamps which have twice been issued. Inside the Barefoot Mailman Restaurant – the hull, roped and rigging hung throughout the dining room – setting the scene for diners, some of whom came by yacht to enjoy Barefoot Mailman Chowder, Hillsboro Salad, Flaming Steak Hillsboro, Sirloin Palm Beach, and Lighthouse Devil’s Coffee.
In April of 1986, the restaurant was destroyed by fire and the new restaurant was named Charley Brown’s. The hull of the Mary Celeste and other collector’s items were lost as well as the dream of solving two mysteries: What happened to the vessel’s crew and how did artifacts from the ship turn up at The Barefoot Mailman?
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